Generous Orthodoxy  

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The power of apology

There are so many phony apologies these days ("I'm sorry if I offended anyone") that when a true apology occurs right in front of our eyes, it's worthy of celebration. This afternoon, the Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, stood up at the podium in full glare of the media and repented of his misdeed in firing Shirley Sherrod. He did this in so complete and authentic a fashion that the tape could be used for years to come as a demonstration as to how it's done.

--He said that he, personally, had blundered badly, and he did not reach for any mitigating explanations..
--He did not attempt to shift blame to anyone else.
--He gave details: he said he had been too hasty, too quick to react, without ascertaining the full facts.
--He said that he should have dealt with the situation himself instead of relying on others.
--He said that he had learned a lesson that he'd have to live with for a long time.
--He spoke directly of Ms. Sherrod, describing something of what she had been through as a result of his mistake.
--He said that he had called her in person and that he had asked for her forgiveness (which, he said, she had extended to him)

It was an admirable performance in every way and one might wish it could be drilled into the population at large. We need to learn of the power of a genuine apology. In the New Testament, it's called metanoia-- repentance).